Book Review: The Last Lecture

"Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted"

I recently just finished the book that follows up on the "last lecture" by fellow proud nerd, Randy Pausch, nearly a decade after his death (he passed in July 2008), and a decade to the day after the now famous lecture. I've been getting knee deep in death lately (which seems to be a trend, especially with some of my movie reviews). I've been watching The Leftovers, where coping with loss is a major theme. The Last Lecture is the dream scenario for many in that show, where someone knows the end is coming, and is more able to cope and prepare, and tell the people around him the impact they've had on him, as well as the future he hopes for.

The book expands on the speech, and reflects on it. I had always heard about this video, but never really delved into it. I sat down to watch it after I read the book and in preparation of this post. I'm glad I did. It's nice to look back long after he has passed to keep moving his message on. It's a simple, positive one that cuts through a lot of the cynicism and negativity around us. While I can certainly acknowledge his upbringing gave him a lot of benefits, simple advice sometimes helps to affirm what we all as humans should strive for.

I love the quote above, as it is something I'm currently grappling with and have had to come to terms with in the past. I look forward to the clarity of hindsight as I move forward (if only it was given to us in the moment).

As I said, I've been watching The Leftovers, which deals with loss, and I think we should all also be a lot more grateful for the time we have with those we care about, and we should tell them what they mean to us. I got married when it may have been sooner than some were expecting. But I was ready to marry my wife when I proposed, and I didn't want to wait any longer to be her husband.

I encourage you to give the video another viewing if you haven't seen it in a while. It's a simple, pure, and will help you to reflect on where you are, where you've been, and where you want to go. It will also help to honor a man who loved life, and lived it fully.

#SAGeeks - Lessons from Anime Mentors

The SAGeeks series is all about celebrating the geeky and nerdy sides of all of us working in higher education and student affairs. The series is edited by Jenn Osolinski and Lynne Meyer. Check out our resources page for more geeky goodness.

Working in student affairs in higher education is a mostly rewarding but at times discouraging experience, and mentorship is often a great tool for us to stay motivated and guided in the field. While most of my mentors are colleagues with pronounced resources and experiences, some of them are characters with faithful dreams and pure hope. Many anime characters are gifted with incredible talents and humane missions, and I’ve always been inspired by fantasies where a girl or boy battled against destructive evil minds through a daring journey. Although my fictional “mentors” are born with extraordinary power and fate, what influenced me the most is their copious amount of love for humanity as a whole, and progressive ideals for a hopeful tomorrow.

Sailor Moon is a series that I continue to reminisce about. The original manga series had so much more complexity than the iconic TV series, as Naoko Takeuchi portrayed strong female leaders when females were viewed as “the weaker sex”. Sailor Moon, along with her squad, symbolizes love and justice: they are girls who walk the frontline, who save their loved ones, who protect their dreams. My mentor Sailor Moon Usagi, was introduced as an ordinary schoolgirl who was not the best at anything compare to her peers. But while Usagi’s weaknesses are too obvious, her genuine care for others, her abundant optimism for goodness, and her ultimate understanding on the duality of light, all point towards her greatest gift: the power of inclusion. In the end of the manga series, Usagi faced a dilemma when destroying her foes for a new start means wiping out everyone else as well. She realized darkness is where the light did not reach. Peace and war, love and hate, joy and pain are pairs that co-exist in the universe, therefore destruction was never the solution, as we will be eliminating hope instead of eliminating hatred. In the duel between light and darkness, the healing came from her argument that darkness exists because of the hope for light. Instead of excluding darkness using destruction, Usagi chose to overcome darkness through light, warming broken hearts and saving it all.

Similarly, Naruto Uzumaki from the Naruto series possesses the same boundless love that reaches anyone. For a very long time, Naruto’s persistent pursuit on talking people out of conflicts bothered me so much, but now I’ve begin to see his conversations differently. Through dialogues, we’ve learned that the cruelest enemy has a neglected childhood, and the most merciless killer has a mistreated past. They all have monsters they are fighting within, and we are all seeking acceptance in this world. For Naruto, half of his battle is trying to surpass enemy’s power, while the other half is trying to sell his vision-the ultimate peace. Ninja world is supposed to be a place where mission accomplishment and power supremacy overshadows joy of life. Competition and war are cultivated as the social norm, and emotion is being scorned. But Naruto believes otherwise: he bought in the idea that our existence is to understand one another and live in harmony. How Naruto inspired Nagato to give up on extermination and to resurrect every battle casualties was kind of bullish but impressive. It is that moment when Naruto’s strength and power became insignificant, while his ability to listen and to connect liberated others from hatred and judgement. He attempts to preach forgiveness and hopeful future, utilizes his scarred past as motivational catalyst. Characters who were once rejected and haunted often perceive power as a means to a better end, whether it’s protection or acknowledgement. Naruto understands and recognizes that the true cause of violence stem from misunderstanding and mistreatment. So instead using his power to intimidate and subordinate others, he listens, he shares, he befriends those who were hurt before, transforming societal villains to community allies.

Two very similar and yet different blondes inspired me as a child and as an adult. They are not the greatest anime I’ve read, but they made me introspect the most. In our world full of ignorance and violence, it is easy to become discouraged while you are trying to fight for love and justice. People say your work is in vain, they don’t understand why you even bother, and they argue it is more important to be realistic. You look to your right and felt your heart wrenched with all the social justice issues, but you look to your left and found yourself so powerless in front of established system and structure. But the recognizing obstacles shouldn’t interfere with holding on your values, right? When my characters ran into disagreement and opposition, what did they do? Naïve or faithful, Usagi and Naruto offered their world something people in the past never experienced, leading their followers through optimism and fortitude. It is definitely idealistic, but isn’t this what following your dream was all about? To welcome and include others, to listen and connect to stories, and ultimately to be change you want to see.

Guicheng “Ariel” Tan is a new professional working in student affairs in higher education for almost a year. She graduated from UC San Diego in 2015 with distinction in psychology, and researched the effect of hypersexualization in video games. Since she finished college in three years, Ariel decided to make her 4th year a “practicum year” by working for graduate and family housing department at her institution. She currently serves as the Leasing Consultant, providing residential life services and community programs for her residents. Ariel’s passion within the geek culture is combined with her social justice interest. She is interested in the effect of entertainment media on people’s self-perception and identity formation, as well as the impact of online community on real life community in this digital age. While her favorite anime are Sailor Moon, Naruto, and Detective Conan (although that series is getting way too long), her favorite games are League of Legends and Chinese Paladin (a classic RPG in China). Connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

#SAGeeks - Some Epic Nights with Board Games

The SAGeeks series is all about celebrating the geeky and nerdy sides of all of us working in higher education and student affairs. The series is edited by Jenn Osolinski and Lynne Meyer. Check out our resources page for more geeky goodness.

When I first read that there would be a blog series about “geeking out,” I knew that I had to write something. But I wasn’t sure what my topic would be. Would it be my intense love of Star Wars? What about Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? After some thought, I came to the realization that I needed to write about something that I have recently started to geek out about. Board games. I’m not talking about Monopoly, Sorry, or the Game of Life. I’m talking about epic, hours long, thematic games.

I was first introduced to many of these unique, intricate board games through my current boyfriend. These board games have taken up hours of my time on the weekends and have brought my friends closer together while threatening to tear us apart. Trust issues become serious problems in the board game world.

There are a few board games in particular that I would like to highlight for you, dear reader. These board games are some of my favorites and the best part about them is that they have taught me so much about myself and the world of Student Affairs.


T.I.M.E. Stories

This is the most recent board game that I have played. The plot is simple.

Your team of friends are time agents who must go back in time to prevent temporal faults and paradoxes that threaten the whole universe! The best (or worst?) part of the game is that you cannot fail permanently. You will travel back in time as many times as is needed for you to successfully complete the mission. This means that you can play the same story over and over again until you get it right. Wouldn’t it be nice if we got infinite do-overs in the real world? Each story requires the team to solve puzzles and roll die to try to kill your enemies.

The cooperative style of this game relates directly to the work we do in Student Affairs:


How often do we have to work together, depend on each other to complete our work on time, and when we fail, have to pick up the pieces and try again? Daily. Many times, failure isn’t an option for us. We can’t fail that resident struggling with conduct behavior because if we do, they may drop out. We can’t fail to pull those grade checks for that Greek chapter because their headquarters needs them.


When you fail to solve that puzzle for the 3rd time, you want to throw your hands up and give up. But you must have the patience to continue. Persist through your frustrations. When a staff member asks questions for roughly 10 minutes of every staff meeting, it is easy to get frustrated with them and stop answering the questions. This is when patience is so necessary. Without patience, so many situations would cause us to throw in the towel and call it a day.


Dead of Winter

In this game, you play as a team of survivors who have set up a colony during a zombie invasion in the middle of winter. You can pick different goals and players each time you play. No matter your end goal, you must roll dice to attack and kill the zombies that have invaded your colony while searching through card decks at locations outside of the colony to aid in your mission.

At the end of each round, you must feed your survivors and survive any zombie spawns. If you fail to feed your survivors, the morale of the group is lowered and if it gets to zero, you lose the game. Throughout the game, you have the option to allow helpless survivors to join your colony, but you will have to feed them as well. This game is about weighing your options, chances, and hoping for the best.

Taking Chances

Sometimes we have to search a deck of cards, hoping for the one card that we need. Sometimes we get that card. Sometimes we don’t. Positive changes are rare when you don’t take a chance. That new involvement initiative you created could fall flat. A brand new, large scale program that you spent thousands of dollars on could only bring in 100 students. Or it could bring in 2,000 students and become a new campus tradition.

Helpless Survivors

Sure, in Student Affairs we probably won’t have helpless survivors who want to escape zombies, but we will have students who need our help. These students may not be able to offer much, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon them in the cold. It is so important for us to recognize when students are struggling and to help them with the resources we can provide.


Board games have provided my friends and I with countless hours of frustrating, stressful, and fun entertainment. We have learned so much about ourselves and each other while rolling die, solving puzzles, and moving pawns across boards. I have developed a love so extreme that I have potential board games bookmarked on my web browser. I am a proud Student Affairs board game geek.

No matter what you geek out about, make it fun.

Geek on.

Kelsey Murray is a Hall Director at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is a Colorado native who transplanted to Tennessee. In her free time she enjoys binge watching Netflix, playing her ukulele, and obsessing over her cat, Penny Lane.

Book Review: Brewing Up a Business

"Of all that the world has to offer, it is innate human potential that is the most impressive."

I recently finished reading a book that I've been meaning to read for a while now, Brewing Up a Business, by Sam Calagione about the founding of Dogfish Head Brewery. I got the second edition a few years ago when it came out and actually got it signed by Sam when he came to visit University of Delaware to promote it. Dogfish has always piqued my curiosity since it is something from Delaware that a lot of people know of. I've had a few beers of theirs that I've liked, and recently (finally) visited their brewery in Delaware (they have a ale house here in Maryland that I need to check out too). Nevertheless, I've appreciated them as an ambassador of my (sort of) home state and was excited to sit down with this book after far too long putting it off.

I will say that this book didn't grab me in its entirety. There are cool parts, like the stories about the early days of Dogfish Head. There are also less cool parts, like going into how to balance your small business's budget (oversimplifying a bit here). I personally wasn't reading this book for the introduction to business lessons. I wanted stories and advice about life. I appreciate that the book has both, but it ended up with a decent portion of the book not being for me. I skimmed through the parts that started to lose my attention. It felt mostly like pretty boiler plate leadership and business tips that are very much currently part of the zeitgeist on sites like Inc or Fast Company (granted this book came out several years ago, so it was probably a little ahead of the curve).

There are some fine morsels in there (see the above quote which I love). There is also some neat connections for me personally between the obvious location for the brewery in Delaware, where I grew up, but also where I was born in Maine (the state as a whole, not my hometown). I really like craft beer, going to breweries with my partner, trying new things, and meeting the people who are passionate about their craft. It helps get a local flavor wherever I go and is a great way to relax and connect with others. I look forward to continuing this trend. I appreciate the opportunity to read this book to deepen the respect I have for Dogfish Head.

Go check out this book at your favorite book retailer or your local library. Sam Calagione also released another book recently, Off-Centered Leadership, so if you want more from Dogfish Head, check it out too!

Thanks for stopping by!

Five Things I Learned From My Mom

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I would write about my own mother, who I owe so much of who I am today and my success to. I don't write about her often (or at all really) but that just was probably because I didn't know how. Now, with this special day as an appropriate context, let me tell you a little bit about her.


I am humble, almost to a fault sometimes. But I would rather be someone who lets his work speak for him than someone who is just the loudest person in the room without much basis for their outspoken confidence. I've grown a lot with balancing confidence with humility, but I know I got my humility from my mom, who is easily flattered like me, and doesn't do anything for the attention or acclaim. She works hard and does right by her kids and family. Which leads me to my next point...

Hard Work

My mom worked hard to support me and my brother for a while after it became just the three of us. She has worked hard all of her life, getting by and allowing for her children to have food, a safe place to call home, and thrive as adults. I think a lot of success comes down to grit and perseverance. A lot of people will give up when the going gets tough or just take the easy path, so a lot of success (I will concede that there is certainly a lot more to it if you want to dig really deep) boils down to just who is left working hard each day. You have to keep going and keep the goals you have in mind to inspire you. I know I have a pretty awesome example of a hard working parent to live up to whenever I have children of my own.


Something else I know I got from my mom is her caring spirit. She's a hugger, and a generally loving, empathetic person. I am the same way (except for the hugging, I tend to wait for someone to give me a cue they want a hug first) and I know I learned it from my mom. She loves me and my brother a lot and tells us often, so I am comfortable with expressing my feelings for others and genuinely care for people. Whether that is trying to do right by my students or wishing the best for friends, past and present, I just want people I care about to be happy. I always appreciate how open and welcoming my mom is.


Due a lot to my mom's support, I eventually built up my confidence after growing up being a shy kid for most of my life. She has always had my back as I start my life and go in whatever direction I think is best, so I know even if things don't work out, she is there to help me. Even as adult life continues to provide me with unique new challenges, my mom helps support me through all of it, which gives me exponentially growing confidence to face the next new hurdle. I appreciate her love and support always, and I know it will continue as I keep facing new adventures in my life.


Raising two boys definitely teaches patience (I would assume). My mom was pretty patient with us, humoring us whenever we needed it and also not giving into all of our demands. We learned that sometimes good things come to those who wait. We learned that you can't get everything you want right away. We never had a lot growing up, but we had enough, and that was fine. I have always been a patient person, and I'm sure learning to wait from my mom as I grew up had a lot to do with that. It's important to not always be anticipating the next thing. We should be still, and appreciate what we have, and be willing to wait for whatever is next to come when it is supposed to.

Let your mother know that you appreciate her and how she has impacted your life!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!